Whetu Douglas roped in for Italian job as he loses battle to stay with Crusaders
It's a pity Whetu Douglas had to farewell the Crusaders in such strange circumstances.
Just over a week ago Crusaders coach Scott Robertson stated No 8 Douglas was going to remain in Christchurch for another six weeks, having been granted permission to remain as injury cover for wounded loosies Jed Brown and Mitchell Dunshea.
It was high-fives all round when that news came through.
Why wouldn't it be? Douglas, originally asked to move to Christchurch from Hamilton to fill in for Kieran Read during his enforced rest from wrist surgery, proved to be dynamite for the Crusaders during his six outings in Super Rugby.
Athletic, a good lineout leaper, and with a big engine that allowed him go deep into the final minutes, Douglas really looked the business.
Now we have learned his days with the Crusaders are numbered. He is off to join Italian club Treviso, who are coached by former All Blacks fullback Kieran Crowley.
Crowley and Treviso are the big winners in this. They signed Douglas on the back of his efforts with Waikato and the NZ Maori sides last year, something that wasn't made public until recently. And despite the Crusaders' best efforts to arrange for him to stay they couldn't come to terms with Treviso.
"Whetu had signed a contract with Treviso before he came down to the Crusaders and we were hoping to have him for the whole season," Robertson said.
"Now he has to, in simple terms, honour that contract. He left us this week with a lot of disappointment on and off the field. Everyone knows, and he will say it, he exceeded expectations.
"He would have loved to have stayed. But that is just the way it worked out."
You cannot blame Treviso for sticking to their guns. Without being privy to the contract details it is difficult to know how much leverage Douglas had in terms of extending his stay with the Crusaders, but a deal is a deal.
Given Crowley thought he had secured Highlanders first five-eighth Marty Banks late last year, but is now watching him play for the Dunedin club from afar, he may have vowed to ensure Douglas didn't slip from his clutches.
Robertson indicated the Crusaders hoped Treviso would allow Douglas to delay his departure from New Zealand. Now he has been packing his bags and preparing to shift his whanau to Italy. Tasman's Ethan Blackadder, the son of former coach Todd Blackadder, briefly joined the squad as injury cover this week after impressing with his robust efforts for the Nelson club this year.
Douglas's last appearance in New Zealand was as a replacement for Kieran Read in the 50-3 win over the Sunwolves last weekend. Read will start against the Stormers at AMI Stadium on Saturday night.
"Initially it was looking that way (that Douglas would stay)," Robertson added. "But he has got visas to get, and a young family to get ready. So it was the best thing for Whetu to make that decision."